Belgrade Theatre launches 60th anniversary poetry competition

Calling all poets! As part of its 60th birthday celebrations this year, the Belgrade Theatre is launching a one-off poetry competition, with the winning entry to be featured as part of its forthcoming Diamond Anniversary Gala on Saturday 15 September.

Earlier this year, ahead of the official anniversary date on 27 March, panto legend Iain Lauchlan and BBC Coventry and Warwickshire presenter Vic Minett delved deep into the Belgrade archives at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, where they discovered a commemorative programme produced for the opening of the theatre in 1958.

By amazing serendipity, the programme included a specially written poem by John Hewitt, which featured the following lines:

“So, sixty years from now, some lad grown old, may tell with pride how he was here to see the first bright scene within these walls unfold like dawn athwart the spires of Coventry.”

Read out on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire as part of Vic Minett’s 60th anniversary special, the poem has now prompted a search for keen local writers to pen their own response to Hewitt’s work. The winning entry will be read out as part of the Gala event, with the writer invited to attend for free and enjoy the celebrations.

Think you’ve got what it takes? The Belgrade is looking for entries that reflect on the last 60 years of its own rich history, whilst looking forward to the dynamic future the theatre has as an artistic hub for the city, particularly as Coventry moves towards its year as City of Culture in 2021. You don’t need to be a William Blake or T S Eliot: the Belgrade encourages all to share their experiences from the theatre’s colourful and diverse history in any style of poem they please.

To apply, please email your submissions to [email protected] or send them via post to Press & PR Officer, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry CV1 1GS. Please note, you must be at least 18 years old to enter.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 3 September.

The full John Hewitt poem can be found below, and is also featured in the News & Blogs section of the Belgrade Theatre website.

The Belgrade Theatre’s Diamond Anniversary Gala is set to be a huge party packed with pop-up performances, music, cake and more, and everyone is invited to attend! Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 024 7655 3055, or visiting www.belgrade.co.uk.


LINES ON THE OPENING OF THE BELGRADE THEATRE

As yet this Playhouse has no memories
but time must earn them, yielding us a share,
who tread this broad stage first, intent to please,
and you who first attend, expectant there.
So, sixty years from now, some lad grown old,
may tell with pride how he was here to see
the first bright scene within these walls unfold
like dawn athwart the spires of Coventry.

Some say this city breeds prosaic men,
without tradition, sceptic of the arts:
the wrench, the ratchet rather than the pen
relieve the coiled intentions of their hearts:
But in this Playhouse time can give the lie
to the rash judgment. Has there been an age
when hearts were chill to warm words’ artistry
projected living from the peopled stage?
Here we now have this edifice designed
for all dramatic traffic, framed and lit
for any dance of language, limb or mind,
the clown, the lover or the man of wit.

This is no upstart town: in ancient days
the Corpus Christi guildsmen roared their lines;
from Gosford Street to Bishop Street their plays,
in vivid pageant, smote the Philistines;
and when the guilds went down, poor mummers came
in booth and shed, to dare the groundling’s call,
or shod in stouter buskin, strode to fame
in old Saint Mary’s multipurpose Hall.
If you should scan the annals, year by year,
you’d find no easy target set for scorn,
but proudly point the finger, saying, “Here
was Siddons married, Ellen Terry born.”

Let these remembered burgeon in our thought
till drama fills its place within our lives.
As men of Athens, Shakespeare’s London, wrought,
so nurtured, many a gesture that survives
the drive and drift of time, and still is part
of what, for good, man yet may claim as his–
the power and pathos of the playwright’s art:
and may our city find its heart in this,
as loyally these walls safe home provide
for poet’s craft, for actors’ discipline:
and a great audience, generations wide,
achieve enhancement of their days therein.

John Hewitt